Mark Ravizza, S.J., keynote speaker at the Ignatian Values in Action lecture, spoke on “Depth, Imagination and the Risk of Jesuit Education” Sept. 15 in the Bryon Recreation Center.
Ravizza graduated from Stanford University and worked as an engineer, then a marketing manager and then graduated from Yale University with a doctorate in philosophy. He later joined the Society of Jesus after teaching at both Yale University and the University of California at Riverside.
In 2005, Ravizza served as visiting professor at the Casa de la Solidaridad in El Salvador. This program shows students the reality of suffering by living in it.
“I would say to any student that if you feel afraid, if you feel like your life is too small and you want to get in touch with the bigger magnanimity, do what Pope Francis says,” Ravizza said.
Ravizza explained that his most life-giving experience in El Salvador was to watch students that were scared, but who had been willing to take a risk.
“They would say, ‘Even though I’m a little afraid, there is something in me that feels life could be bigger than fear,’ so they take that step,” Ravizza said. “To watch them engage this reality, a messy reality in a world that is completely out of control in Salvador, it’s kind of like wait a minute, we can’t be expected to be perfect.”
The lecture went hand in hand with the 2016 Royal Read book “Lila” by Marilynne Robinson. The main character, Lila, suffers throughout her whole life as a migrant drifter during the Great Depression.
Ravizza compared the fire inside her to God, how it gave her the ability to persevere and choose the right path, even when it was not the most moral way.
Cyrus Olsen, Ph.D., theology professor at The University, discussed the book with his First-Year Seminar class throughout the first half of the semester. The class focused on how Lila’s characteristics affected herself and the community.
“Students need the capacity, imagination, and experience like Lila. Their souls need to be expansive, and to be able to think with other people,” Olsen said.
First-year student Meghan Loomey was inspired by Lila’s strength to overcome difficulties throughout her life and was able to learn from her experience and apply it to her own education.
“Each Royal Read is picked to enhance the Jesuit education and to create a lasting experience for our students,” Rebecca Haggerty, assistant dean for programs and assessment, added.
Ravizza highlighted the dimensions of the Jesuit education through the phrase “magnanimity.” Ravizza said that the Jesuits thought the way to do that was just to become humanist and embrace all of culture.
“The best of education really wants to form men and women who will go forth from here and work for the common good, but to do that they really have to have the right kind of hearts,” Ravizza said. “I think we get those hearts by combination of academic excellence that is in touch with this suffering world.”